Nothing completes the weekend like a good solid pub meal accompanied by good wine and local ale. A couple of Saturdays ago we piled in the car and headed out to The Compasses Inn at Crundale (just outside Canterbury) for a nice leisurely lunch. The pub first came to my attention when its owner and chef, Robert Taylor started following me on Instagram, and I'd been meaning to head out there for the best part of a year. In all honesty, now I wish I had not waited so long as everything we ate was both creative and flawless.
Before moving along to a lovely and oaky Rioja off of the pubs extensive wine list, we shared a board of still warm bread and some of the pubs pork popcorn crisps with our halves of Whitstable Bay. It made a lovely start the the meal; the butter was slightly salted with added crystals, and I am not ashamed to say that we were fighting over the pork crisps. They were a pretty unique way to start the meal in a Kentish country pub.
To kick off the eating properly, I went for the local Crundale cured venison with crispy onions and a mustard mousse. The meat was rich and flavourful, but what I particularly enjoyed was how the tart berry coulis and the micro herbs (I'm a sucker for them, I've even got some seeds so I can start growing them myself at home) complimented the meat to create a really bright and light start to the meal.
On the other hand, for those with greater appetites my Dad opted for the individual chicken pie with mushroom ketchup as his starter. I only managed (much to my chagrin and his relief) to steal a single bite of the pie before it was whipped away from me to the other side of the table. I can tell you that the pastry was crisp, the filling rich, and that there was very good reason for it to be kept away from wandering forks!
For our mains, Daddy pretty much kept himself to himself again with a rather succulent plate of lamb, and Mummy and I decided to order both fish dishes on the menu, and swap half way through the meal so that we'd get to sample both of them. First up, may I present to you a rather succulent piece of cod on a bed of leeks and mashed potato, sitting in a pool of delicate and flavour packed crab bisque. I know, right?
The other fish dish we were both enchanted by was the Confit Salmon, Smoked Potatoes and absolutly to die for Dill Clotted Cream. I'd never thought of either herbing clotted cream, or serving it with fish, but it made the most wonderful rich and creamy accompaniment to perfectly cooked salmon. It melts slightly as you eat it to create a glorious sauce. Odd that that was the thing out of the whole meal I pick out, but that portion of cream was the highlight of my meal. A really inspired use of basic ingredients.
Unusually, all three of us opted for dessert. For Daddy this meant one of the specials, the Toffee Apple Crème Brûlée, which was a pretty standard (and apparently delicious, I did not get to try much of that either!) burnished custard with sweet wedges of apple at the bottom of the pot. Mummy and I decided to go for another switch around with our desserts, again wanting to try more than one thing off of the menu. First, let me present to you a Brioche Marmalade Bread Pudding. I loved how you could regulate the amount of custard out of an adorable little pouring jug, and I honestly think that it could give my Dark Chocolate Marmalade Brown Bread & Butter Pudding a run for its money.
However, my favourite dessert out of the pair was the Cold Chocolate Fondant, filled with a runny pool of salted caramel, topped off with a few nuggets of honeycomb, and served with a scoop of one of the most sublime honeycomb ice creams I've ever tasted. It was the right balance of sweet, indulgent and salty, and I have to say was much better than the other cold chocolate fondant I've eaten in my neck of the woods over the past few weeks, a blood orange curd filled number at Mark Sargent's Folkestone outpost Rocksalt. High praise indeed.
The Compasses Inn is a bit of a journey down narrow winding country lanes, but if you're in the area and you're looking for an extra special (and great value, our bill came to about £99 for the three of us) lunch out of the city, I really recommend you plug it into your Sat Nav to go and enjoy Robert's delicious food.